The lawmaker overseeing the New York State Assembly’s impeachment investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to the state’s chief executive Wednesday warning against intimidation.
Democrat Assemblyman Charles Lavine, chairman of the chamber’s Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Cuomo via email. The committee is investigating whether there are grounds to impeach the Democrat governor on issues that include sexual misconduct and his $5 million book deal.
Lavine’s letter follows a March 15 correspondence in which he warned Cuomo and associates of engaging in intimidation or retaliation against complainants and potential witnesses.
“It is therefore difficult for me to comprehend your communications director tweeting that Attorney General [Letitia ] James, whose office is conducting a parallel investigation, ‘says she may run against the governor,'” Lavine wrote Wednesday. “It is obvious that attempts to demean the Attorney General serve as well to undermine the investigation and send profoundly negative signals to witnesses.
“It is critically important to realize that any such comment may merit severe repercussions. You will recall language in my mom retaliation/intimidation notice of March 15: ‘Any such actions on your behalf sends a chilling signal to any potential witnesses and such conduct may be considered by the Committee as an attempt to suppress other complainants and witnesses from coming forward.'”
Lavine’s letter came after Cuomo communications director Rich Azzopardi publicly suggested James’ investigation is politically motivated, Spectrum News reported. James has not indicated plans to run for governor.
Azzopardi also has denounced investigation leaks, including news last week that Cuomo would sit for an interview with investigators.
Cuomo administration acting counsel Beth Garvey said Azzopardi’s comments fall under free speech.
“There is a clear difference between actionable retaliation and protected speech and it is clear that the Chairman doesn’t understand the difference,” Garvey said in a statement, Spectrum News reported. “We will have a formal response forthcoming.”
On June 30, the Judiciary Committee announced it would start issuing subpoenas as part of its probe into the possible impeachment of Cuomo, Politico reported.
Lavine said an independent law firm had gathered more than 100,000 pages of records and was searching for more information to corroborate other evidence, the New York Daily News reported.
He added that much progress was being made on the investigation, although he did not provide any indication when it would conclude.
“I am very pleased with the continued progress of the investigation,” Lavine said. “The purpose of this process is to both gather substantive evidence, as well as to assess the credibility and corroborate information learned during interviews.”
The impeachment investigation, which began in March, is looking into multiple allegations against Cuomo of sexual misconduct by several women. It also is looking into:
- Claims Cuomo illegally used staff to help him write and promote a book about the coronavirus pandemic.
- Whether Cuomo helped family and friends obtain COVID testing early on in the pandemic, when such tests were difficult to get
- Whether Cuomo and his staff hid actual number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes.